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Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking

Lesson 14 of 39

The Portrait Film

Victor Ha

Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking

Victor Ha

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Lesson Info

14. The Portrait Film

Lesson Info

The Portrait Film

The portrait films are comprised completely of motion. So there will be a time when you will go, alright, we're gonna do a portrait film here, or your client's seen your work, and they reserved you specifically for a portrait film, and that's where you wanna live and eat, okay 'cause it's fun, alright? Generally, portrait films can be anywhere between 45 seconds and a minute. They can have a loose thematic element, okay. Maybe they're getting ready or doing something, you know, it can be whatever. If it's a child, maybe it's they're playing with their favorite toy, you know, it doesn't matter. Something loose, give them an activity, okay. It doesn't have to have a story, but perhaps an activity. If it's a portrait film of an athlete, get them doing what they're doing, okay? And then, you know, it can be done by one person, you can do it all by your lonesome and all by your onesies, but if you have an assistant, it tends to help. They don't, even a second shooter, you don't need a secon...

d shooter for it. But an extra set of hands sometimes helps, especially when you start using reflectors and that kind of stuff. So your how to, okay. In a portrait film, the portrait film, you know you got a good portrait film when you can pause that portrait film in any frame and have a photograph, okay. When you pause that portrait film, and it looks like a well-composed photograph, then you've nailed it. It has to be at any point in the film, okay? Second thing is repeat the motion, repeat the motion. So I'm gonna borrow the stool again real quick, okay. The motion, the action is me putting the stool down, okay? So wanna put the stool down, you gotta capture it three different ways from three different angles. You gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta do it. Any time there's a major action that the client or your subject is gonna do, you gotta capture it more than once, sometimes more than three times because what it'll do is it will give you something to cut to, okay. So remember that moving the camera 30 degrees and changing your angle of view 30 degrees, that applies here, okay? So we're gonna talk about that. I'm gonna walk in, I'm gonna put the stool down, I'm gonna sit down, and I'm gonna come off. So your first shot's gonna be that wide, basic establishing shot, okay? Your second shot should be somewhere off-camera, I mean off-angle a little bit, maybe punched in. Your third shot can be the exit shot. Your fourth shot can maybe be like a low ground perspective the stool coming down. You gotta think about this, guys, and the reason we spent all that time yesterday talking and talking and talking about those specific concepts was because when the rubber meets the road here, that's when you start doing it, okay? So if you looked at your stuff yesterday, establishing shots, changing your angles, changing your lenses, getting those different angles because in that one action of putting down the stool and sitting onto it, you've got five shots, and it's your job to pick what five shots you want, alright? That makes sense? Good, so, how to standing still. Nothing is more boring than a model standing still. It's motion. If you're not moving, and they're not moving, it's just boring, okay? So you've gotta get them loosened up, you gotta get 'em moving around, trust me, it looks weird, it feels weird to the client and sometimes to you. I talked to actors who do films, okay? And on set when they're supposed to be dancing to music, a lot of the times they're not dancing to anything, okay? They're not dancing to anything, and they put the music in later. So you can imagine walk into a set, you got a room full of people on set dancing to no music. It's awkward for the person being captured, I get it. But it's your job again, make them comfortable, you know, tell them they look great, tell them what to do, direct them a little bit, okay? And let's see here, keep it simple. And the last thing is you wanna connect your actions between clips. So if I'm gonna have someone sit down, and then someone sit up, the next shot wouldn't be getting into a car, would it? It would be something in and around this, maybe they're walking off frame to the right. I wanna have them enter in the next clip from the right. Okay, or yeah, from the left, sorry, from the left, okay? Cool, so let's actually watch a portrait film really quickly. ("99 times" by Viva La Union) That looked beautiful. Short piece, wasn't it? Really, really short piece, connected the action, had her repeat the same movements over again, alright? How long was it, short. It's really, really short. Why, why was it so short? 'Cause it want you wanting more. I want you wanting more out of that, okay? It don't need to be long 'cause watching long pieces, especially when they're just vanity portrait films like that and get really boring, okay? How you doin'? So how long did that take about to film? Okay, that shoot was an hour and 10. Okay. That shoot was an hour and 10, I used a tripod, a video tripod, my Benro S8 video tripod. I used the Benro S6 video monopod, and the shot where she's holding it and spinning around, she held the camera, put a 17 to 40 lens on it and put it at F5.6 and had her spin around like this. That's it, it was funny 'cause the first time we did it, the first time we did it, we didn't realize how wide it was gonna be, and we're standing there looking at her laughing. You see us in the background laughing. (audience laughing) So we actually had to hide behind pillars, and she held the camera, and she kinda spun it this way, and the great thing is she'll always be stable because she's the point of reference. So if it shakes up and down a little bit, doesn't matter, okay? So it's a really fun shot to do, especially in that kinda circumstance, okay? How we doin' there? Till she drops the camera. Yeah, any questions? Yeah, we do have a lot of questions coming in. Do you guys have any questions about this specifically? In the first stock of a hybrid that you showed her using, what was the depth of field that you were using, if she was walking up, let's say, she walked up, and she stopped, yeah, it was the opening sequence. Yeah, that opening sequence when she walked in, on the first one of the girl who is blond. That was 5.6. If you put a mark, you could put it as you put a mark on the floor 'cause it was tack sharp. Yeah, 5.6, eight, I think we did two between 5.6 and eight. I actually put my phone down, my wallet or whatever it was on the ground, and she hit that mark. Beautiful, thank you. And we just pre-focused, she stepped in. So it was funny because you're gonna find out that when you're working with a model in motion, if they're not used to it, it'll take 'em a few takes in the beginning to get something right because when you say, alright, I want you to walk up, stop, and then walk off. Invariably, the first time what they'll do, they'll walk in, they'll stop, forget to look at the camera and just walk off, alright? So what you do is everything in motion takes more time, especially to register. So you're gonna walk in, you then tell them stop, wait for a second, get set, set, freeze and then walk off, okay? What it does, it gives you not only more time to work, but also in the editing room, it gives you more of a time to cut between the action. Beautiful, thank you, great. Okay, yeah, cool. So Victor, NBE would like to know if you have any suggestions on a good length for the portrait videos. Is that a 30 seconds, one minute? 45 seconds to a minute. Once you get to about a minute and 30, unless something is happening, unless they're doing something, or there is narration, or whatever it is. It starts to get a little bit long, okay? You gotta treat a portrait film as if it were a commercial for that person. You don't see long commercials, do we? We don't see commercials that are any more than 45, a minute long, and sometimes a minute commercial can be very, very long. Okay, so, the purpose of a portrait film is to advertise that person basically, and you wanna get to the point where you're so engrossed and engaged in that person that when the video ends, you wanna replay it 'cause they look so pretty, or they're doing something really fun, or they're looking great, or they're doing something interesting, okay? Portrait films are short, and they're short for a purpose, okay? (chuckles) Susan and I, we're just having a little discussion. We were like, well, we've seen longer than that, and the common thing that I think we both noticed was that the longer it is the more the story has to be driving it, and there has to be a story to it, whereas these portrait films are kind of more like still images with movement to enhance them rather than an actual narrative. Do you agree with that? I completely agree with that, so when you think about a portrait film. We're talking as photographers, right? We're talking as photographers, and we're trying to find ways too get ourselves in the capturing motion. And so the first two things that I just showed you, did it involve capturing sound at all? No, it didn't, it didn't involve capturing sound. And so when you're not capturing sound, you have a very narrow window to kind of engage your audience with. So you wanna keep it short because what will be more engaging with an individual is if you capture sound and use that as the narrative, okay? So the next step to a portrait film is maybe you interview that person on a second day, and you have them talk, and if it's a portrait film about what they do, or what they're doing, you know, it kind of becomes a piece about that or becomes more of an offshoot from a corporate profile, where you're leveraging what they're saying in their interview and capturing footage to support that, okay? So, yeah, I mean, I stand firm in my belief that portrait films should be 45 seconds to a minute because one, we're trying to get into motion, two, for you to think of a thematic storyline for this portrait film, it's another added level of difficulty and mysticism that you don't need to approach yet. Get used to capturing the motion, get that under your belt, get a few done, and then maybe if you wanna make a longer one that's got thematic or story, yeah, do that, okay, but we're doing stuff here kinda baby steps because could you imagine if I walked in today and showed you a three minute piece portrait film that had narration, a soundtrack, moving images and captured audio or captured sound from the client? You'd sit there and go, I can't do that. I don't even know sound, right? So, we gotta be realistic here, and I'm being realistic is that portrait films are short. They require no audio or no sound, and they're simple, okay? So one final question that when you talked about setting it up and setting up your story, Mjshipley just wanted to know if you planned the train going by, or if that was a coincidence. Oh, okay, so that's in Portland. We were eating lunch around the corner, and we're like, there's a lot of trains around here, let's go find those trains. So we were there, and I was trying to actually use the train for that moving cinemagraph. We were waiting there for a half hour for the trains, and it didn't come. And so I was like, you know what, let's just do some moving portrait stuff. So we're doing portrait stuff, and this gigantically long train came. It was at least a hundred cars long. So I nailed the cinemagraph on it, and then we had her do some of that stuff in front of the train too. So it was kind of like, we knew it was there, but it was a happy accident 'cause it just randomly came bye.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

If you own a DSLR camera, you already own a powerful filmmaking tool. Ready to learn how to use it? Join CreativeLive and Victor Ha for a course that will cover the core principles of capturing video with your DSLR.

Through hands-on demos - including how to create compelling video interviews - Victor will guide you through the core techniques of DSLR filmmaking. You’ll learn how to apply the compositional skills of still photography to taking video. You’ll also learn about how to navigate the video-capturing features of your DSLR, choose the right gear for your filmmaking needs, and incorporate audio into your shoots. From framing shots to producing simple projects to spatial relationships, the skills you gain in this course will leave you ready and inspired to create high-quality, engaging film projects.


Victor van Dijk

This course was quite a treat! I had been learning piecemeal about DSLR Filmmaking but never had the opportunity to follow a course that ties it all together. And my namesake Victor is ex-cel-lent!!! Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking is a very very clear (I would almost say, lucid!), carefully, comprehensively tied together course teaching all you need and wanted to know about DSLR Filmmaking. Massive PLUS is that the course is first and before all NOT about the nitty-gritty technical details and numbers, but all about the basics of what filmmaking REALLY is all about. And yes, technique and gear are part of that but not for their own sake. And Victor shares that it's all about fun, and telling your story your way in the way that you like. I truly admire Victor's carefully planned and laid out path, in my opinion he planned the course exactly and meticulously like he would a full-blown movie production. And he is very open and honest and not belittling at all. He is really passionate, compassionate and 'infectious' with his happy happy mood :-)! I HIGHLY recommend this course for anyone wanting to properly and thoroughly learn the ins and outs of filmmaking, with a strong focus on using a DSLR.

Penny Foster

This is a very well constructed course by Victor Ha, who is very easy to watch, and very knowledgeable about using the DSLR for more than just taking pictures. For a Wedding Photographer like me, who wants to add some moving images into a slideshow for my client, this course was perfect. Victor shows us that, with the equipment you already own as a working professional photographer, you can get started into video RIGHT NOW, with baby steps. This is not a course on video editing, so if you need that tuition look elsewhere, BUT, Victor shows us how to set our cameras up for success right from the start, so that when we are at the editing stage, the footage is in the perfect state possible to produce excellently exposed, perfectly colour balanced material. He goes over the use of a light meter for capturing video, and how essential it is to get the exposure right 'in camera', so this is certainly a Fundamental DSLR Filmmaking course, for anyone who is already using their DSLR for stills, but who is interested in adding something else to their skill set. Victor is so enthusiastic in his teaching style, and this is a course I will keep coming back to time after time.

Sara safajar

Excellent overview on how to think as a storyteller with DSLR video. Great breakdown and really accessible examples- fun video on the making of a peanut butter sandwich- which inspire and make it feel like the video beast can be conquered. This course is packed with great ideas on not only figuring out to how to make the switch from still to motion, but also creative inspiration on how to begin thinking cinematically. Well worth the price. Great course!